It was only after I had booked my flights to the Middle East that I realised I was travelling during Ramadan.
Initially, I worried and fretted, panicking whilst pacing back and forth before my laptop. ‘Shit,’ I would say, wondering ‘will services run slower? Will people be easily irritated from lack of sustenance? Will attractions even be open!?’ I was giving myself a list of reasons as to why I should change the dates – perhaps travel in late June or early July (times where I wouldn’t have to think about possible fines and/or imprisonment for having a bite to eat or some water to sip on the street), and I was ready to halt all travel plans to the region. Instead, I began looking at travelling to Sri Lanka or Nepal, or perhaps returning to India.
But I thought about it, had some discussions with myself and my hottie, and decided that, ‘hell yes, I’m travelling during Ramadan!’ Because why not? I was assured that the people were extra hospitable at this time, and also, my lazy ass self didn’t care to cancel or adapt the plans I had already made. So I decided to go ahead, and as I sit here in Jordan and write this, I’m incredibly happy that I flew out to Lebanon a week before this holy month to begin my journey.
The First Day of Ramadan
Or in other words, the first day I have ever fasted. For a variety of reasons, including the ‘why not’ factor, challenge and desire to tap into my spiritual self, I have decided to partake in Ramadan, and yep, that means absolutely no liquids or solids between sunrise and sunset. *Breathes.* Now listen right, and let me tell you… my first day of fasting was one of the HARDEST things I have ever done in my ENTIRE life. Hyperbole? Maybe. But completely founded this time.
Now unlike those who I was travelling with (who were rightfully lounging about at the accommodation), I was visiting the Roman ruins in Jerash, Jordan, an area notorious for intense sunlight and severe lack of shade (so bring a hat!). I’ll tell you the truth, I thought I was doing well… I even questioned why people thought it was a struggle, but then 12pm hit and that’s when the craving really started. And not the craving for food, which is what I thought would derail me, but the craving for water. My lips were dry – no amount of Vaseline would break through the cracks – I was sweating constantly in the 35 degree heat in my all black attire, and all I could think about was water: sweet water, swimming pools of pure water, a cold full-fat dairy milkshake (despite being vegan), and an ice cold Sex on the Beach cocktail.
In fact, I genuinely believe that as I sat on a rock near the Temple of Artemis, opposite another traveller I had met earlier, I came close to hallucinating a drink. And my poor companion! She couldn’t understand much English and I not a bit of Mandarin, but she also probably didn’t understand why I was intently watching her glug water like she was a prophet creating miracles.
I ended up leaving Jerash early. The heat was too intense and the thirst too unsettling. But (thankful for small graces!) someone had decided to take mercy on me, and I managed to catch an air conditioned coach back to Amman for the same price I paid for the local minivan I had taken earlier in the morning. Queue me falling asleep on said coach… and then falling asleep in the taxi… and then falling asleep for two hours on the sofas where my companions had spent the day in slumber. I think I had heat exhaustion, mixed with the desire to sleep to bring sunset closer, you know?
My First Meal
Or rather, my first Iftar.
It was worth it. Oh, fasting was so worth it for Iftar (the meal you take with others to break your fast). That feeling, that euphoria of the sugar rushing into your system, is truly spell-bounding.
We began to ready ourselves five minutes before the call to prayer. Armed with a few dates and a Lipton iced tea I had bought earlier in the day, I watched as the others prepared small snacks of yoghurt, fruit and water before joining me at the table. And then we waited. We impatiently waited and watched as the clock ticked down to take us to the moment we had literally waited for all day.
And as soon as that alarm went off, we cheered, gave each other high fives, and guzzled down our drinks like mad.
Ramadan kareem everyone! And I’m happy to stay I’m still successfully fasting.